God of the laps, Speed supplement, GQ, 2013

God of the laps, Speed supplement, GQ, 2013


With its serpentine looks and venomous power, the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 is the dream car of the new FIA GT Series. Lee Gale is hypnotised…

[I’m no stranger to motoring stories – I ran car pages at Front and GolfPunk – but chances to write about cars were few and far between at GQ. I think this his was the only car story I ever wrote for them, apart from advertorials. Once this had been published, if I remember rightly, McLaren put this in a frame and hung it in its Woking waiting room. Or did I dream that? What I do know is – I contacted Hot Wheels to enquire why there was no McLaren in their toy car range. I introduced the two companies and was later informed that a McLaren was to be added to the Hot Wheels roster. You see, I do have my uses.] 

GQ Speed, 2013

In the world of Hot Wheels, a car with a top speed of 207mph – like the spitting-snake-styled McLaren MP4-12C GT3 racing car – will be regarded by your average schoolboy as sluggish, For instance, Paradigm Shift, from the Hot Wheels “Thrill Racer” series, can reach 4,950mph. This is a prodigious claim. To put this into perspective, Paradigm Shift is quicker than the North American X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft from the Sixties by more than 400mph and, if a transatlantic autobahn existed, it could reach New York in 50 minutes. Paradigm Shift is the first-choice car for any round-the-rug rally, as existence for the under-tens is purely about victory at all cost, annihilation of your competitor and obscene personal glory. When you’re young, “How fast does it go?” is the only question that matters.

Hot Wheels has a number of real-life GT racers for us to buy, but it doesn’t have a single McLaren in its ranks. Next to the 12C GT3, Paradigm Shift looks tame by comparison, so you might reasonably expect a motor sport McLaren to exceed 5,000mph. The 12C GT3 is McLaren’s first foray into motor sport since the F1 GTR in 1995 – a 6.1-litre V12 powerhouse that won Le Mans at its first attempt, outclassing the purpose-built Courage C34. The 12C GT3 was developed alongside its road-going twin, specifically to compete in the FIA GT Series, a largely Europe-based sport (in 2013, there will be an additional date in the Middle East) featuring the sort of cars that daddies dream of.

The GT Series is a new name in motor racing but in reality it’s a continuation of the GT1 World Championship that began in 2006, a sport offering all the excitement of touring cars but using supercars instead of family saloons. In the 2013 season, which started on 1 April at Nogaro in France, you’ll see a slew of spectacular marques trying their utmost not to bang into each other – the list comprises: Lamborghini Gallardo LP600; Ferrari 458 Italia GT3; Ford GT; Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3; Aston Martin DBRS9; Audi A8 LMS Ultra; BMW E89 Z4; Porsche 911 GT3 R; and the viper-like 12C GT3.

It seems somewhat perverse to push a 12C on a racing track, a little like placing a best-in-show Crufts winner into a dog-fighting arena, but after a tricky start to its debut season in 2012, the McLaren quickly adapted to its wild environment, notching 19 victories and 19 further podium finishes out of 98 race events. The 12C GT3 differs from the production car in that it has a race-prepared, restricted 3.8-litre V8 twin turbo, a revised aerodynamics package and, for 2013, updated bonnet and ducting for increased performance in hot-weather conditions.

A GT series team can buy an off-the-peg 12C GT3 for £325,000, but be warned, it can’t be driven on UK roads. “However,” explains Wayne Bruce, McLaren’s head of PR, “Special Operations, our bespoke division, can modify a 12C Coupe or Spider to look very similar [to the GT3]. And with 625bhp, it would well be on the pace, too.”

Last month, McLaren GT commenced production of a track-only 12C GT Can-Am Edition for America. Limited to just 30 examples, and based on the 12C GT3, for £375,000 you’ll receive an unrestricted 3.8-litre engine, giving a power output of 630bhp and a top speed somewhere in the region of 220mph – plus, there’s the option of a made-to-measure support package for track-day ease of mind. Like the GT Series car, the unshackled Can-Am Edition will come with a large carbon-fibre rear wing to increase downforce by 30 per cent, while inside, each will have a Formula One-derived steering wheel.

If you have no racing aspirations, there’s always the impending McLaren P1 road car to experience – a true paradigm shift – said to be the best drive in history (as well as, from £866,000, the most expensive UK car ever built). The performance figures are staggering: 0-60mph in less than three seconds; limited top speed of 217mph. Hot Wheels should take note. The hearth-side circuit awaits McLaren’s overdue arrival.

NOW: FIA GT Series
Upcoming dates: 20-12 April, Zolder, Belgium; 13-14 July, Zandvoort, Holland; 17-18 August, Slovakia Ring, Slovakia; 12-13 October, Navarra, Spain; 16 0r 23 November, tbc. fiagtseries.com

NEXT: McLaren P1
Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last month, the McLaren P1 is shortly to go into production. With a twin power system (diesel and electric), the 903bhp P1 has a top speed (limited) of 217mph.